Pitch of What Death has Touched , High-Concept YA
by Holly Raychelle Hughes
Liv is dead but doesn’t know it, and she’s having one hell of a day figuring it out.
When Liv’s mom returns home complaining about the morgue’s cold stainless steel slab against her ass and the gaping hole in her head, it doesn’t take much convincing for Liv to realize her mother is dead. Fearing her mother is deteriorating into a maternal apparition that will haunt her forever, Liv sets out to find a way to save mom.
Angels disguised as ravens, a juice girl, and a Goth, attempt to steer Liv toward redemption, but Liv fails to heed the signs causing her to witnesses her and her mother’s brutal death.
Finally, Liv recognizes her twisted fate- she’s dead, trapped in limbo, and reliving the last day of her life and death over and over again. In order to free herself and save her mother, Liv attempts to change the events of Tuesday, December eighteenth. But changing things only makes it worse. Liv must figure out how to move on or risk suffering a horrible eternal afterlife.
In order to reach Heaven, Liv must let go of her new love, forgive herself and figure out her true reason for being.
when you leave me
in the grave
don’t say goodbye
remember a grave is
only a curtain
for the paradise behind
Johnny and I were playing catch in my front yard with a baseball and no mitts. My hands were swollen and red from catching his last three throws. I pulled back my right arm, kicked up my left leg and let it rip. It would have been a total strike if anyone were at bat. Johnny totally ducked.
My ball went flying. I was afraid it would break a window. I imagined the glass shattering and the ball beaning whoever was behind it, killing them instantly. I’d end up in jail for murder, all because of a stupid game.
The ball smacked a black mailbox with a loud thwap denting the metal. Then rolled past the Haskell’s driveway. A little girl scooped it up and walked it back over. I didn’t know her.
“This your ball?” she asked.
“Throw it to us,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, throw it,” I said. “Think you can catch it this time, Johnny?” I jabbed my elbow into his ribs.
“You want to see a finger?” the girl asked. She was short. She was wearing a frilly dress with dirt smudges all over it. She wasn’t wearing any shoes.
“A finger?” I asked.
“Yeah, Mom found it.” She kept talking about this finger and wouldn’t let go of my ball. Johnny went behind the girl and gave me the finger. I tried hard not to laugh. “She dug it out of her vegetable garden. Wanna see it?” the little girl asked. She had a lisp.
“You kept it?” I asked.
“Yup. Mom put it in a pickle jar.”
“You have a finger in a pickle jar? That I have to see,” Johnny said.
Johnny wanting to see the finger made the kid smile. I didn’t know if I wanted to see any finger that wasn’t attached to a hand. Maybe she was kidding. Or maybe she was a pathological liar and was desperate for anyone to pay attention to her. She looked like she needed paying attention to.
“Okay, we’ll check out your finger,” I said.
The little girl led us to the house on the corner. I didn’t know anyone lived there. The house was covered in moss and spider webs. It looked like it needed a bath as much as the little girl.
“Be careful,” the girl said. “Bees live under the front steps.” She pointed to the left. I didn’t notice the six bees doing donuts before she pointed, but I would have stepped on one if she hadn’t.
“Mom’s out back,” the little girl said. “So you’d better take your shoes off. Sweaty feet are better for the floor than dirty shoes.”
Johnny and I left our shoes next to the bees.
“Remind me to look inside these before I put them back on.”
“Come in,” said the little girl.
We followed her into the kitchen. It looked like my grandmother’s. The cabinets were old wood and the linoleum on the floor was worn out in patches in front of the sink, refrigerator and stove. She stood by the fridge and tugged at the white handle. The jars inside clanked.
“She keeps it in the door,” the little girl said. She pointed to a pickle jar next to the mustard. “It’s in there.”
“Let me see,” said Johnny. He took it away from her. It slipped.
“Don’t drop it!” I said.
The little girl hoisted herself onto a kitchen chair. Her legs dangled. She swung her feet back and forth like she was on a swing.
“I don’t see any finger,” Johnny said, looking into the jar.
“That’s just pickles in there,” I said.
“Swirl it around,” the little girl said. She put my ball down in her lap.
“You put it in with real pickles?” Johnny asked.
“It’s the same size,” said the little girl.
“Gross,” I said. “Can I open it?”
“No, you can’t touch it,” she said. “Dad glued the top on because I kept poking it with a fork and holding it up to see if it was growing a hand. It just got holey. It practically looks like a pickle now.” She shrugged her shoulders. The thought of a holey finger made me sick.
Johnny shook the pickle jar then flipped it upside down. Little round things floated in the murky juice. “I think I see it, right there. Is that a finger nail?”
“It has nail polish on it!”
“I did that,” said the little girl. “I wanted it to be pretty.” She smiled.
The nail tinked against the glass jar like it was trying to scratch its way out. I wondered what else was in the fridge.
“Whose is it?” Johnny asked.
“Mom found it, but it’s mine.”
“No, I mean whose finger is it?”
“Dude, she doesn’t get what you’re asking,” I said.
“Hold up your hand. Now count your fingers,” he told her. She wouldn’t hold both of her hands up. I had a bad feeling. Maybe it was her finger. Maybe her mother cut it off. I noticed then the girl was wearing the same color nail polish as the pickled finger.
She counted out of order. “One, three, four, five…”
I wanted to make her stop. I didn’t want her to count her fingers. I didn’t think they were all attached. I didn’t want her to count the one in the jar.
“Hold all your fingers up,” Johnny said. “I’ll count them for you.”
“Leave her alone,” I said. She laid her right hand over her left.
“Is your mom missing any fingers?”
“No, she found it. How can she be missing something she found?”
I looked around the kitchen. There was a block of knives, an empty Ziploc and a pair of black handled scissors on the counter. The silver blades looked like they were hungry for something to cut. Maybe her Mom used them slice her finger off. Maybe this kid’s father did it to her for not making her bed. Or maybe she lured us here to slash our fingers off!
“Got anything else?” Johnny asked. He tugged the fridge door open again.
“Mommy won’t be happy if you go through her things,” she said.
She looked out the window. Was she checking to see if her digit-chopping mother was coming? Was it her job to keep us in the kitchen near the knives and cutting boards? Was someone waiting to chop us up? The girl started scratching my ball like it had an itch. Her nails scraped over the red stitching. Her polish flaked off and stuck to my ball.
Johnny shut the door. “Thanks for showing it to us,” he said. Johnny sounded disappointed, like he wanted the egg carton to be full of eyeballs and the leftover spaghetti to be intestines.
“Okay.” She got off her chair and wiped her hands on her dress exactly where the grime was. She never unclenched her left hand. “Bye.” She pushed open the screen door that led to her back yard and let it slam behind her, leaving my ball on the table.
“Think it’s hers?”
“Maybe. Bet there’s more weird stuff in that fridge.”
“No way of knowing.” I snatched my ball and wiped it off.
“You want to play more catch?”
“No. I’m done.”
“Chicken. Afraid of being pickled?” He jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow and held up his left hand, keeping one finger bent and out of sight.
SHORT STORY? Originally published in Volume 7 Issue 2 Fall/Winter 2011 moonShine review
By Holly Raychelle Hughes
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Blossoms spring off fingertips
dipped in icicles trickling fragrance skyward.
Music blankly sits and stares as
Potatoes make bets
which ones the Goblins eat first.
Grandma Died on Friday
Turning away from you,
turning off the light.
Taking off my dark clothes.
Darkness closes in,
inside out and grieving.
Other good news:
A short story of mine titled Wolf, a Modern Tale, will soon be published in the moonShine Review. Please order your copy of this amazing literary journal. The issue should be out in June. Here’s a link:
I am anxiously awaiting word on a personal essay that seems to be getting a bit of attention from an anthology series. I hope they accept my submission so I can give a shout out to that as well.
5 MINUTE WRITING EXERCISE- Write about someone you love in 5 minutes, being as descriptive as you can.
PORTRAIT OF AUNT MARILYN
Petite pixie woman with punk spiked hair, designer shoes and dresses dancing like a stripper with her lips pursed and red in the middle of my brothers bar mitzvah, her children’s, a family wedding or gathering with wood slapped and snuggly fit together.
I envy the way she snaps her gum in her back teeth, the way she says my nickname -Suki- direct – it’s important whatever she is about to come out of her moth. She means it- always punctuated by her hair.
She lives in a small midtown Manhattan with her antiques piled up around her, a cocoon of junk no one can touch or take from. She goes to Brooklyn every weekend to visit Grandma Jean and her hair done. I’ve seen it in bee hives, twists and piled up- but always covers her ears. She loves elephants, why doesn’t she like her own ears?
“They stick out Suki.” SNAP.
Her hair is thin and teased and colored and doesn’t move until washed a week later. She juts out her lips and inspects it, gently poking at it with a pick like stale jello.
more fiction:inspired by a look into mental illness and The Yellow Wallpaper
“I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.”
A letter written as a mad woman:
Managing this pen on my back is what is keeping me from disappearing all together. I am a total abyss without this lifeline to you. I fear my smallness, my microscopic self would be crushed by the rolling dust leaning my direction so close to smothering me with its girnormity – so dark it is beneath a shadow husk of some other thing. Perhaps a scale of his skin soaked in vodka or chemical perhaps with vibrancy a petals fragility transferred through heat onto paper or your clothes-
Breathe for me dear friend for my lungs are too small to catch breath and my heart too big to fit into my chest. It leaks. My blood is seeping out from my ribs and knees. The body too small to contain what should pulsate. Breathe quicker! Breathe deeper! The ink is smearing- my footprint erase the lines of letters I am trying to write. Can you still see them on the paper? Are the letters broken lines? I am broken. My toes cracked dragging at the end of my foot and the dust a mountain of waste still threatens to consume me with its pain and its reflection masks me- dresses me up like a doll on a shelf fortifying my identity and eradicating my thoughts are blurred manipulated by this shadow that tells me I am supposed to tell you that I miss you and I am fine when I am nothing like china. An ice pick plunging into ham sweet sticky meant.
Where did I hide your letter? The one in which I tell you how it watches me with the eyes of my father and tells me they are my eyes too and my procrastination to mail this means you will not know the danger you are in being such a good friend. Have you cleaned your kitchen today? Stay away from it with its refrigerator jaws and quicksand floor. The dust waits up high to crush you. It will fall coating the countertops and stove and there is no wiping it away. It grows like fungus. Mold spreads a black plague up the walls and into my lungs. Breathe for me Deb.
With sincere love and devotion,
Your friend Holly
“Remember what being buried was like?” Robert asked.
“Not really, I didn’t come to until you popped my coffin open,” Mary said.
“You were so funny. You shot up, sat bolt upright and asked me for a shot of tequila,” Robert said leaning back and laughing exposing his lower mandible.
“How many times are you going to tell me that story?”
“Until the rest of my flesh rots off and I disappear into the great unknown,” Robert said.
- Teenreads.com (teenreads.com)